Friday links: how to review grants, the BES vs. beef, and more (UPDATED)

Also this week: remembering Richard Levins, claims that universities democracies scientific journals are really old and so obviously have outlived their usefulness, powerpoint vs. lecturing, parent accommodations at the ESA meeting, new fellowship in marine conservation, against mom apple pie ggplot2, modeling > coding, award winning Canadian ecologists, and more. Oh, and fox vs. sheets.

From Jeremy:

The NSF DEBrief blog has good advice on how to review grants.

I’m very late to this, but back in December Simon Leather boycotted the 2015 BES meeting over its decision to eliminate farmed ruminant meat from the conference. Simon said recently that he was disappointed not to have gotten more comments on his post, or any response from the BES. Perhaps this link will help.

I’m also very late to this, to my embarrassment: on Jan. 19, the great Richard Levins passed away. Levins was an intellectual giant. Along with Robert MacArthur, E. O. Wilson, Lawrence Slobodkin, and others, he developed many of the biggest ideas in modern ecology. He also helped develop a distinctive way of doing ecology, using simple mathematical models and fitness optimization as starting points. All ecologists know Levins’ original metapopulation model, which now bears his name. I’m partial to his classic 1966 American Scientist article on “the strategy of model building in population biology”, his great little book Evolution in a Changing Environment, and his neglected classic 1979 paper on coexistence in variable environments. His famous work with MacArthur on limiting similarity has, um, limits. It has also been much misunderstood and incorrectly applied, but I don’t think that’s Levins’ fault. He also hit on the core ideas  of the theory of island biogeography, a fact I wasn’t aware of until this week. He published in an obscure venue, though, and so the idea is now associated with MacArthur and Wilson, who published shortly thereafter in a more prominent venue. MacArthur and Wilson also developed the idea more fully; perhaps Levins is to MacArthur and Wilson as Wallace is to Darwin here? Obituary from Greg Mayer here.

I’m slightly less late to this: writing at the Chronicle, Jeremy Yoder on how most academic career advice will be useless to you–which is why you should seek it out.

Sticking with the theme of Do What Works For You: Jeff Leek explains why he doesn’t use ggplot2.

I’m only a week late to this: Manu Saunders uses Darwin and Lincoln’s shared birthday as a jumping-off point to talk about their thoughts on agroecology.

Some links related to Axios Review, the independent ecology & evolution editorial board that allows you to get your mss independently reviewed before submitting them to a journal (full disclosure: I’m on the editorial board). Here’s INNGE’s interview with Axios Review founder Tim Vines. Here’s Simone Vincenzi’s blog post about a paper he recently submitted to Axios. And here’s a post from BMC about their relationship with Axios, including comments from BMC authors who’ve used Axios.

P-hacking, optional stopping, confounding of exploratory and hypothesis-testing analyses, and other dubious analytical practices apparently are rife in infant psychology research. Fortunately, I think some of these practices are rare in ecology, though others might be common. Hmm…might be interesting to do a little poll on this.

Parent accommodations at ESA 2016. These are great new policies. And see the comments on the linked post for some important additional details.

Alex Bond reviews this year’s winners of Canada’s top science prizes. The winners include astrophysicist Victoria Kaspi, the first woman to win the top award, and ecologist Elena Bennett. But overall only 17% of the winners were women, which is roughly in line with the past few years. UPDATE: Man, I sucked at linking this week. I failed to notice that our own guest poster Mark Vellend also got a Steacie! Between him and Elena Bennett, ecologists got 2 of the 6 Steacie fellowships on offer. Thanks to Brian for pointing this out in the comments.

Coding is not the new literacy. Modeling is. Discuss. (ht Simply Statistics)

Stuff I’m Not Linking To: saying that scientific journals obviously need to be gotten rid of because they’re 350 years old! I’ve seen this line trotted out more than once by people who want to revolutionize scientific publishing. Which is just silly. I mean, here’s a list of other things that humans invented long ago to serve certain purposes, that retain many of their original features yet remain fit for purpose even though the world has changed radically since they were invented: universities, democratic government, money, books, jury trials, calculus, trains, roads, controlled randomized experiments…I hope you don’t also need me to list younger things that turned out to suck even though they were invented to replace old things (cassette tapes,…) Look, go ahead and argue for whatever publishing revolution you want. But make the argument (which many people are doing, of course). Pointing out how old thing X is is irrelevant to whether thing X is or isn’t broken. Or if it is relevant, it’s evidence that thing X isn’t broken; persistence often is a sign of resilience.

And finally: fox mistakes bedsheet for snow, behaves accordingly. (ht Ed Yong, via Twitter) 🙂

From Meg:

There’s a new fellowship that’s just been announced aimed at increasing diversity in the field of marine conservation. From the website:

RAY Fellows will be placed within one of our partner organizations for a year-long paid fellowship position, with the resources and support to develop experiences that will launch them onto a path of career growth in the conservation field. Fellows will work with mentors, grow their networks, and forge lasting relationships with their cohort of fellows. RAY Fellowship positions are full time paid positions at $31,200 plus benefits. Fellows will also receive a stipend of $1,000 to go towards professional development opportunities, in addition to coordinated professional development through their host organizations and the Environmental Leadership Program.

The 2016 RAY Fellowship Program will offer seven Fellowships in its inaugural year beginning June 15, 2016 and ending June 15, 2017.

(ht: Miriam Goldstein)

These life-sized whale sculptures made of willow are amazing!

I enjoyed this blog post by Michigan State’s Chris Waters, describing his experience with eliminating powerpoint slides from his 150-student Microbial Genetics course. As Don Strong noted on twitter, it’s not really that he switched away from technology (or that powerpoint was the main issue before). I agree. The key, in my opinion, is whether the lecture is given presenting material prepared ahead of time or written out on the fly (e.g., my genetics professor had overheads written out in paragraph form that had tons of content). But, for most of us (myself included), using Powerpoint leads to a tendency to include more and to move more quickly. All of this makes me wonder if anyone has done an analysis on the amount of material covered in a given course and how that has changed over time and with changing technology. That would be interesting to see! It also makes me wonder how this would work in a course with multiple instructors teaching different sections,where the goal is to have consistency across instructors. Clearly this is something people dealt with before powerpoint, and presumably it relies on working from the same notes. I’d be interested in hearing more from people who’ve shifted away from powerpoint; based on the amount of discussion this generated on twitter, I’m sure I’m not alone!

How partially funded sabbaticals contribute to inequities in academia: if your institution provides funding for one semester of salary during a sabbatical year, but expects two semesters’ worth of research output, that is a big problem for people who don’t have the resources to magically cover that lost income. This is especially true if that sabbatical occurs before coming up for tenure (as is the case in the linked Tenure, She Wrote post.)

What people think about during your conference talk:

This website is “an online toolkit for university students, faculty, and administrators on pregnancy and parenting”. (It’s not included in their tagline, but there is also information for postdocs on the site.) It covers Title IX protections, gives information on rights and best practices, and has relevant articles.

17 thoughts on “Friday links: how to review grants, the BES vs. beef, and more (UPDATED)

  1. Just to note that Mark Vellend (guest poster) also was awarded a Steacie Fellowship along with Elena Bennett. Congratulations to both! In general ecology got 2/6 of Steacie’s this year. So while the overall gender balance definitely does stink, but ecology looks to be strongly represented in Canada!

  2. Wow on the Title IX page. That’s new (and obviously still a work in progress). But wow. That’s going to be incredibly helpful to so many moms-to-be and new moms (and dads).

  3. I think Simon Leather’s viewpoint is pretty far out there. If it’s so important to him to eat meat that he’ll boycott a meeting just to avoid giving up meat for a week, maybe he needs to reconsider his priorities? Yes, we evolved as omnivores. We did not evolve eating meat everyday. He doesn’t believe that the BES should be imposing lifestyle choices on people, but as a vegetarian, I find that a meat-eating lifestyle is imposed on me everyday, especially at events where food options are limited. The vegetarian option is rarely the tasty option on the menu.
    And while we’re at it, why aren’t more ecologists vegetarian? The environmental impacts of meat and dairy (not to mention the health consequences) are well-documented. We’ll spend a lot of money to buy a Prius, but most people choose to stick their head in the sand on this issue.

    • I can’t speak for Simon (and I encourage you to comment on his post), but I suspect he’d frame the issue in terms of choice. He’s not asking that vegetarian options be removed from the BES conference menu, he just wants the meat option to remain. And I suspect he’d deny that a conference that presents both meat and vegetarian options is an “imposition” on vegetarians, and would say that the tastiness of vegetarian options is a separate issue (both tastiness in absolute terms, and relative to the meat option).

      As to why more ecologists aren’t vegetarians, you’re getting into exactly the larger issues Simon raises in his post, so I encourage you to go over there and comment.

      Just to be clear, it’s totally fine for folks to comment here on this topic. But I linked to Simon’s post with the intent of encouraging folks to click through and engage with him over there. A conversation is more likely to get going that way, because there are already some comments on Simon’s post and because it’s easier for Simon himself to engage with commenters on his own blog.

  4. tl;dr: thumbs up for Axios. Going through normal is in my experience an huge waste of time if not lucky (and apparently I am not).

    I think and hope Axios Review will have success (I had a very good experience with Axios), and it is important that some steps would be skipped by the journal when going through Axios Review (that is, not going through additional reviews beyond that of the Editor/Associate Editor). I think this will happen in time, when relationships between Axios and (top) journals will be stronger (and maybe they already are).

    My experience was with a paper on growth modeling, which was very technical and thus difficult (I found out) to place in an ecological/evolutionary journals (I published a previous, ‘less’ sophisticated model in PLoS Computational Biology with the same co-authors). I tried Methods in Ecology and Evolution and I had a desk reject as the topic was considered outside the interests of readers. Then, I submitted a slightly modified version to Fish and Fisheries since the application of the model was on fish, but after 3 months and two reviews, the topic was deemed not a good fit for Fish and Fisheries.
    Then, I sent the manuscript to Axios, it was reviewed by 2 reviewers, then after changes it was sent to Ecology (not a good fit), then to Ecological Applications. At EA it was reviewed and after a back and forth of > 6 months, it was accepted and will be published in a few months (now the bottleneck is signing a doc from Wiley to release copyright or something – this is killing me). I consider EA at the same ‘level’ of the other journal to which I submitted the manuscript and the scope of those journals largely overlap.

    This “shopping around” is happening way too frequently, but this comment would require another tl;dr. Since I am first author in the vast majority of my papers and re-formatting, writing cover letter, reading scant reviews from associate editor is getting very old very quick, I plan to use Axios Reviews frequently, as Editors and reviewers seemed to be interested in you publishing your manuscript (clearly after taking into account comments/recommendations) and not the other way around.

    • If you can’t or don’t want to pay for OA and they don’t allow preprints without embargo, see if Wiley will accept the SPARC Author Addendum – complete the addendum and return it with the copyright transfer form. It’s not perfect, but if they accept it you retain a lot of rights to reuse your own work even though you’ve transferred copyright. The addendum is written so that if they don’t acknowledge the addendum but publish away that they’ve accepted the addendum anyway.

      • Thanks Gavin. I am now uploading pre-prints of all my new manuscripts. If some journals won’t accept manuscript with pre-prints, I will submit my work somewhere else. I would also choose OA, but costs are a bit steep when not supported by grants.
        I also want to briefly clarify my point above related to “shopping around”. I recently submitted a paper sequentially to multiple journals (still continuing its journey across the vast landscape of journals) and I was impressed by the nuances of the desk rejections. In one case, the AE clearly read only the abstract and argued I could have not reached the conclusions I reached with my analysis and then it was not a good fit for the journal. In another journal, I was told single species/single locations are not welcome. In another one, I was told that, well, it was novel enough.
        I am not discussing here whether I agree or not with those evaluations (i.e., this is not a rant and I appreciate all the free work that Editors do for journals), but I know all those journals very well, and I chose to submit my work there because I believed (given also past articles published on the same topic(s)) they were appropriate and prestigious outlets for my work. I was mistaken.

        Since I believe my time has more value when spent producing science, I am more than willing to pay Axios or similar services for targeting journals better than I am currently doing (this is not a case of starting high and then going down, more often I submit to journals that can be found in the same cluster of prestigiousness – unfortunately, for grants and jobs, publishing in prestigious journals and not only publishing good-to-excellent work is required).
        Disclaimer: I am not part of Axios, I paid like everybody else, when I recommended 3 target journals I think my first choice was not approved, I just like the idea.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Simone.

      It’s quite common for journals not to send Axios papers out for additional review, but I don’t recall the percentage off the top of my head. And there’s probably some variation among journals and even editors within journals on this.

      • The proportion of accepted papers that don’t get sent back out for review is a shade over 50%, and has actually risen slightly since 2014. Jeremy is absolutely right that there’s a lot of variation between journals in whether or not they will re-review the paper.

  5. Leather’s post made me wonder – is there a tool a group of people who need to meet can use to determine what metros ng location will minimize total group air travel?

    • I don’t know of any such tool, but it might exist.

      You could probably guess it roughly yourself, at least for conferences mostly attended by people from a single country or perhaps continent. Basically, you just hold the meeting at some centrally-located city with a hub airport.

      Of course, in practice there are other considerations. Attendance at many conferences would decline if they were held in the same city every year. Plus, holding them in the same centrally-located city every year always sticks the same people with high travel costs every year. Then there’s availability and cost of conference facilities. The ESA for instance is both too big and too small for really big cities like Chicago. It’s too small for a massive convention centre, but too big to meet at a single big hotel.

      So while I appreciate the sentiment, I suspect that if you’re really serious about cutting back on carbon emissions from conference-associated air travel, you’re not going to accomplish much by anything short of reducing the number of conferences people attend.

      Which gets into very difficult issues. There are lots of good reasons to have conferences. I have no idea how you weigh up benefits and costs…

      • Hmmmm, I’m not sure I buy that logic. Hubs are hubs precisely because its more efficent for airlines to route travel through them, so I bet over multiple years the avg. per capita airfare to a hub city is lower than avg. per capita airfare to geographically disparate ones. Same for convention cities like Orlando, San Diego, or Las Vegas. That brings me to the next point, which is that repeated meetings in hub or convention cities might allow locking in better facilities and accommodation contracts? If so this could translate into lower registration costs, offsetting increased travel expenses to some and allowing students or others on tight budgets to attend.

        NB: AGU has been having their annual meeting in the same city for a while. An expensive one to sure, but still…

      • “Hmmmm, I’m not sure I buy that logic.”

        Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I agree that hubs would keep the mean per-capita airfare to a minimum. But if you always meet in city A, the attendees who live farthest from city A always have to pay the highest airfares of the meeting attendees. Which seems a little unfair. I don’t claim that’s a decisive consideration, but it’s one consideration among others.

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